The Winneba High Court on Thursday, December 14, 2017, has ruled on the landmark case brought before it by a private businessman and former assemblyman of Donkoryiam electoral area of Winneba, Supi Kofi Kwayera against the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), Minister of Education as first and second respondents respectively.
The Court presided over by His Lordship Justice George Atto Kwamena Mills-Graves in his three-hour ruling at a very packed courtroom declared as null and void and of no legal effect, the mandate of the defunct governing council.
He also ruled that the injuncted Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mawutor Avoke, and the Finance Officer, Dr Theophilus Ackorlie were deeply implicated in financial malfeasances and procurement breaches and they are therefore not fit to come back continue holding their positions.
This implies that two shall not return to their respective positions held before the case. Reliefs A, B, C, D, F, H and I sought by the applicant were upheld and a cost of 8,000 Ghana Cedis was awarded against UEW.
The reliefs focused on:
1.Extension of the mandate of the governing council, mandate of the defunct council in award of contract, all decisions are taken by defunct body or person who constituted themselves as governing council of the 1st respondent by virtue of directives of the 2nd respondent are all null and void and of no legal effect, a declaration that no state institution or authority has the power to extend the tenure of a member of the governing council of 1st respondent unless such extension is in accordance with Act 672;
2. MOU signed by 1st respondent with Ghana Highways Authority was a sham and it was used as a decoy to embezzle public funds, payment to Larmas was done without express written consent of the Ghana Highways Authority and was a breach of the MoU and the same must be refunded;
3. Illegally appointed of Principal Officers of the 1st respondent, wilfully misappropriating public funds by failing to put on public tender the construction of North Campus road, construction of UEW GUSSS commercial centre, construction of lectures office complex on Winneba campus, construction of distance learning centre and guest house in Accra and thereby causing financial loss to the state.
His Lordship George Atto Kwamene Mills-Graves ordered for a refund of Millions of Ghana cedis payment made to Larmas Company Ltd owned by the National Democratic Congress constituency Chairman Paa Nii Lamptey who is also a worker at the Ghana Highways Authority, Winneba. He described the award of the North Campus road construction project as a massive fraud to the state and ordered for a forensic audit into the contract.
He described the award of the North Campus road as a create, loot and share conundrum used by Justice Jones Dotsey in a Supreme Court ruling.
He stated further that the MoU signed between UEW and the Ghana Highways Authority did not allow any third party to come in. He revealed that the certificate of business obtained by Larmas Ltd for its operations allowed it to do building construction, drainage among other related works but not road construction.
The presiding judge pointed out that a number of disguised companies were sublet contracts in breach of the MoU between UEW and the Ghana Highways Authority. Ironically all these companies that were sublet contracts belonged to Paa Nii Lamptey. He received all payments made.
On the appointment and promotion of senior members by the appointments and promotions board during the period under contention, he stated that it should not be thrown overboard. He intimated that those affected could not lose their appointment simply because the council was defunct. He held that the appointments and promotions board was duly constituted.
His Lordship Mills-Graves questioned if central government directive could change an Act of Parliament. He opined that the fact the 1st Respondent was silent on the operation of the search committee constituted to appoint the VC and FO was in itself a tacit admission of guilt. Two letters from the former government through Education Minister was read.
These letters indicated a caretaker role for the former governing council but emphasised that they should not commit the University to policy decisions, contracts and agreements without seeking clearance from the government when need be. The then Education Minister Prof. Jane Nana Opoku Agyeman on the floor of parliament in July 2016 admitted the expiration of the then governing council’s tenure of office when an urgent question was filed by Hon. Alex Afenyo Markin.
His Lordship quizzed whether clearance was sought on all the decisions.
The presiding judge made a profound observation to the effect that a bad case can never be transmitted into a good case. He indicated that in civil cases the plaintiff has the burden of proof and that the plaintiff had sufficiently discharged this burden with the evidence he made available to the court.
The presiding judge held that the extension of the mandate of the governing council is in breach of section 8 of Act 672 and stated that not even the president of the Republican of Ghana has the power to extend the tenure of the governing council contrary to Act 672 of UEW.
How could the President then, being the Head of the Executives, extend the tenure of the governing council, he opined.
Justice Mills-Graves said all the blame should be laid at the door steps of the VC and FO since they failed in their supervisory role stated in Statutes 6 and 10 for VC and FO.
The presiding judge described payments in respect of the North Campus road construction project as a naked rip-off and wondered little that the applicant exercised his right as a citizen of the land through order 44 of the high court civil procedure rules (C. I 47 of 2004).
The presiding judge ruled that all payments made by VC and FO were done in reckless violation of the laws of the land as they dole out money recklessly.
Lawyers for both applicants and 1st respondent were absent in court but a lawyer at the court stood on behalf of the bar to praise and thank the judge for that landmark ruling. The ruling was greeted with some celebrations on the streets of Winneba.
It would be recalled that on June 13, 2017, the case was first heard and has witnessed a lot of controversies notable among which were the shutting down of UEW by the former registrar Dr C. Y. Akwaah Mensah which brought public condemnation over that decision.
The case also saw several joinder application including that of UTAG-UEW but all these were thrown out. UTAG-UEW executives declared a unilateral strike action which was strongly resisted by a section of its members in Winneba with Kumasi and Mampong campuses disassociating themselves from the strike.
UTAG national also declared a failed nation-wide strike all in support of the embattled officers.
The case also saw a plethora of interesting articles for and against the Winneba High court in its earlier rulings mostly on social media and online.